More U.S. Cities Push to Decriminalize Magic Mushrooms

Supporters of the Denver initiative said their main goal was to prevent people from being jailed for using a substance that was often helpful. anitram/Shutterstock

The city council in Oakland, California, voted unanimously on June 4 to decriminalize magic mushrooms. The vote makes Oakland the second U.S. city to decriminalize them after Denver did the same on May 8.

Psilocybin, the substance in psychedelic mushrooms, can cause hallucinations and mood changes, eliciting spiritual or emotional experiences.

As a result of the Oakland vote, police will no longer investigate or prosecute possession of plant- or fungi-based drugs such as mushrooms and peyote, reports USA Today. Mushrooms containing psilocybin are still not allowed to be sold, and driving under the influence is illegal.

In May, the initiative in Denver initially looked like it had failed, but after most votes were counted later the next day, it appeared residents narrowly voted in its favor. About 50.56% of voters approved the measure. The results became final on May 16.

Denver's Initiative 301 decriminalizes the use or possession of mushrooms that contain psilocybin by people 21 and older. As in Oakland, it directs police to make enforcement of laws against psilocybin possession their lowest priority, but it will still be illegal to buy, sell or possess psychedelic mushrooms.

A growing push

The Denver initiative was groundbreaking because it was the first of its kind to pass. A similar attempt in California fell short of making it onto the 2018 ballot, Time points out. Organizers in Oregon are trying to get a similar magic mushroom measure on the ballot in 2020. In Iowa, a lawmaker recently proposed two bills, reports Iowa Public Radio: one removing psilocybin from the state's list of controlled substances, and the other legalizing it for medical use.

Organizers of the Denver initiative said their main goal was to prevent residents from being jailed for using a substance that has helped some people with depression, anxiety, headaches and other conditions.

"No one should go to jail, lose their children, lose their job, and lose their citizen's rights for using a mushroom. One arrest is too many for something with such low and manageable risks for most people, relative to its potential benefits," the Decriminalize Denver campaign says on its website.